Well, that’s a switch.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, bedevilled for most of the season by poor goaltending, received their second good performance in goal in as many nights to get to a shootout, also for the second consecutive night. This time it was Jonas Gustavsson who shone for the Leafs, going Saturday against the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who is a shoo-in to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender this season.
But unlike Friday night, when the goaltender James Reimer and the Leafs managed to grab the extra point from the New Jersey Devils, the Leafs dropped a 4-3 decision when Ranger forward Ryan Callahan scored the decisive shootout goal.
“There were a lot of momentum swings,” Callahan said. “But we kept working and found a way to get two points.”
In the shootout, the key move was made by Lundqvist after Tim Connolly scored for the Leafs and Brad Richards did likewise for the Rangers. Lundqvist took away any scoring room for Leaf forward Nazem Kadri, who scored the shootout winner on Friday with a slick move on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. Then Callahan followed by scoring on Gustavsson for the win.
Lundqvist said he watched a replay of Kadri’s shootout goal on Brodeur before the game “just in case.” Kadri tried a deke and then went for the top corner but Lundqvist had the angle covered and Kadri fired a shot high into the screen behind the net.
“I tried to fake him a little with the stick, make him make a move,” Lundqvist said. “He made a good move. It’s just the puck rolled on him a little bit.”
The points were especially important to the Rangers, as their 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday saw the Pittsburgh Penguins climb to within one point of their Eastern Conference lead. But the Penguins were losing 8-4 in regulation time to the Ottawa Senators as the Rangers were tangling with the Leafs, which restored the New Yorkers’ lead to three points, as they have a 47-21-7 record and 101 points.
“We’ve obviously let the lead go a bit,” Rangers centre Brad Richards said of his team’s recent play. “But we’re more worried about how we’re playing [than the Penguins]”
For most of the night, the game was a little lacking in electricity as both teams played on Friday night.
The two most exciting moments of the game came in the last two minutes of overtime. First, Gustavsson made a huge save to bail out Leaf defenceman Luke Schenn tossed the puck into the slot. Then Leaf winger Phil Kessel just missed the open corner of the net on a breakaway as he bore down on Lundqvist.
The Rangers managed to hold the edge in play over the first two periods but could not shake the Leafs. Gustavsson put in a solid effort to keep the score tied 2-2 after 40 minutes.
But a nifty flip pass by Richards led to a Ranger lead early in the third period and the feeling the visitors had finally shaken off the Leafs. Richards, who made a great effort to avoid going offside, flipped the puck past Leaf defenceman Carl Gunnarsson just as linemate Marian Gaborik jumped into the slot behind Gunnarsson. He grabbed the puck, went in alone on Gunnarsson and scored his second goal of the game and 37th of the season at 4:19.
However, that feeling lasted barely as long as it took to drop the puck for the faceoff after Gaborik’s goal. The Leafs took the puck into the Ranger zone off the faceoff and scored 18 seconds later. Tim Connolly pounced on a loose puck in the slot and scored his 12th goal of the season to tie the score 3-3.
That was the second goal the Leafs’ fourth line of Connolly, Dave Steckel and Joey Crabb scored against the Rangers’ top line of Richards, Gaborik and Carl Hagelin. This did not please Rangers head coach John Tortorella, although he said he was happy overall because his team found a way to win.
“The third [Ranger]goal is probably one of the greatest things I’ve seen as far as what [Richards]did to stay on side, then saucer one to [Gaborik]” Tortorella said. “It was just one hell of a goal. But they can’t get scored on twice by a fourth line.”
The Rangers also did not help themselves after Connolly’s goal by taking three consecutive penalties after staying out of the box all night to that point. Fortunately for them, the Leaf power play, which had not scored in three games coming into Friday’s game, although it had just three opportunities in those games, came up short again.
In the first two periods, defenceman Cody Franson and forward Joey Crabb scored for Toronto, while Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky had the Rangers’ goals.